14 January 2010 Edition

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European Court rules 'Stop and Search' powers illegal

Daithí McKay

Daithí McKay

North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA and Policing Board member, Daithí McKay, has welcomed a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights on Wednesday 13 January that police powers to use laws to stop and search people without grounds for suspicion are illegal. McKay said that the PSNI should now suspend the use of Section 44 powers.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled that two people from London had their rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights violated as a direct result of the two being stopped and questioned in 2003 under Section 44 of the British Government’s “Terrorism” Act.
“The PSNI used the same legislation to stop hundreds of people last year, most of whom were not arrested or charged,” said McKay. “Many of those stopped and harassed in a number of these cases were stopped because of their political opinion/background. This abuse of power amounts to political policing and damages the credibility of police forces that use them as well as community relations. This is a view that is shared even with the British Government’s own independent reviewer of this legislation.
“Already in England it is accepted that the use of section 44 powers has a negative impact on relations between the community and the Police. The Metropolitan police reviewed the practice of using Section 44 powers and announced their intention to cease their use.
“It has since been revealed that police in Hampshire, England, are to follow suit and suspend the use of Section 44 powers after figures showed no arrests under Section 44 were made, despite a huge increase in the numbers of stop and searches.
“The continued use of this legislation, which allows police officers to stop people without reasonable suspicion, is a flagrant abuse of human rights.”

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